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Friday, December 18, 2015

Being a Keeper of Tradition

I have been thinking a lot, recently, about holidays and traditions, and about the words we use to talk about such things. Most often, it seems, I hear "celebrate" used in conjunction with holidays and other events. We "celebrate" birthdays, anniversaries, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the day of my tradition as well... Yule, Mothers' Night, Charming of the Plow (Groundhog day to most of you) and so on. And that has never quite sounded right, or felt right to me.

The main definition I see for celebrate when I Google it is: publicly acknowledge (a significant or happy day or event) with a social gathering or enjoyable activity.  So, yeah, I can see from that apparently commonly held definition that it does not describe when I do. (a) it is not usually public and seldom is social.

Recently my mind landed on what seemed to me to be an older language usage: keeping Christmas.  Among the many modern definitions of the word keep I found: to honor or fulfill, to observe as well as "to guard or protect". Those definitions, while not spot on either, do resonate more with me.

I have been called a "keeper of liminal spaces." So I feel comfortable calling myself a keeper, for I am a keeper of many things and largely of tradition.
Keeper: a person who manages or looks after something or someone.
Synonyms: guardian, custodian, curator, overseer, steward, caretaker
I hold the threads of many traditions, not necessarily ones I was raised to or grew up with, but threads I have picked up, strengthened, held and shared along the way. Not all are even conscious, but build in the background and under the hubub of mundane life. 


This time of year, they call me to stay near the hearth, to bank the fire against the dark and cold (even though this year has seen little of that at present), to cherish the stores from summer on the pantry shelves and to bide my time carefully until the days begin to lengthen. Only then, the threads say, is it safe to begin planning the spring plantings and order seeds.

I do not put up massive displays of lights; in fact, on the darkest of nights, you will see my space lit only with a few candles and oil lamps. Though I am a scientist and know that longer days and spring will follow the short days of winter like a tail follows a dog, as a Keeper, tradition tells me not to try to push the season with "man-lights" galore. We can best appreciate the light when we have experienced the darkness and best appreciate Fire when we know Ice.

Maybe one needs to be a Keeper to feel such things, I honestly don't know... but I do know that I feel the threads stretching back beyond my memories and beyond family stories when I keep traditions as mundane as darning socks, knitting, spinning, weaving, sewing, starting seeds in their season, planting, weeding, harvesting, putting by and then making meals by looking in the pantry to see what looks good. Some of these things my mother did; more of them my grandmothers did and I am as sure as I am sitting here their foremothers did even more.

But for me, being a Keeper is more than just blindly following tradition. What is important is the keeping and honoring of the INTENT of the tradition. For example: tradition holds that during the "12 days of Christmas" (what I observe as the YuleTide... beginning at the period of the shortest days (there is NOT just one, at least here! http://www.sunrisesunset.com/usa/Maine.asp ) through what I call "changing of the calendar," women are to put down their distaffs and not spin. Back in the day, spinning was what women DID, when they were not actively doing something else. Well, here in our world while spinners do honor the tradition with gatherings to spin on Distaff, or Roc day, it seems to me that a setting aside of my painting for a spell keeps the intent of the tradition, so that is what I shall do. And as the darkest days begin, I shall begin preparations for holiday meals that will continue through the week... with fresh made bread and cookies and the butchering, tomorrow, of our turkey, Fred. And I will spin, and weave... for those are not my occupation, but my joy and in doing so, I honor AllMother and the Norns. And then, yes, I shall join the throngs on Roc day as well as picking up the seed stash to inventory and the seed catalogs to fill in with needed new seeds once the season is well turned.

The last hex signs to be painted this year will go out by post tomorrow: two from the new Companion Animal Protection line (customized) and a custom Love and a Happy Home, as well as a small Love and Happy Home to a different customer.
Custom Love and a Happy Home hex sign
from www.dutchhexsign.com

Companion Animal Protection sign
from www.dutchhexsign.com

Companion Animal Protection sign
from www.dutchhexsign.com
After the holidays I will begin work on a large welcome sign, from the last order of this year.

I do not know WHY keeping tradition is important. Honestly, I am a simple woman and have never really spent time asking the why's of unanswerable questions. Why am I here? For me, it is enough that I AM and my trust in intuition and the guiding whispers of the Gods is sufficient to carry on. And to keep tradition, because that's what I do.